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Thread: A new addition to my Plutonian Computer Army

  1. #1

    Default A new addition to my Plutonian Computer Army

    Hello all, NavyGeo here. I picked up an older motherboard a few months back, and have been slowly making a machine. Here is what I have now:

    BioStar Viotech 3100+ motherboard.
    VIA C7-D 1.8Ghz CPU, with a HUGE heatsink!
    2Gb of generic RAM.
    Western Digital 40Gb hard drive.

    I've put it all into a generic horizontal case, and am using my trusty Philips TV/monitor for viewing.



    Most of this stuff was made around 2005. which put the hardware at the end of the WinXP era. I was able to find some drivers for these pieces for XP, and so installed the 32 bit version successfully. I've read that some of the newer Windows releases were quite compatible with these components, and that in some cases less resource hungry. I decided therefore to install Windows 7. I was successful again, and so now have a 2005 computer running Windows 7 fairly well.



    Thanks for checking the post out. I have some other machines I'm working on and I may post their progress as well.

    It's actually quite happy until I try to use Microsoft Edge; then it bogs down. I have a few questions I'm hoping you folks may be able to answer.

    1. The specification 'sheet' for the BioStar Viotech 3100+ says it's maximum RAM is 2Gb. Has anyone tried 4Gb, or even 8Gb?
    2. I have a single PCI-16 slot, and I found a nice little MSI NX8800GTS video card for this system. It installs ok, but the computer won't complete BIOS/bring up a basic video screen. Does anyone know why? It's supposed to be compatible.


  2. #2
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    The VIA C7 is little more than a rebranded VIA C3 CPU, which is very weak. When VIA bought Cyrix, they also bought another company called CentaurHauls, which was responsible for the infamous IDT Winchip. VIA didn't want to continue on the Cyrix design because it was complex and expensive to manufacture, so they got CentaurHauls to design a low power and much slower x86 core and married it to the Cyrix name since they had better brand recognition.

    The resulting design is what VIA had wanted, but it was junk. The VIA C3 and C7 designs were very slow relative to other competitors at the same clock speed, and the former had quite a few compatibility issues due to missing instruction sets. The C7 gained SSE2 and 3, which allowed it to run more modern software, but it was still painfully slow.

    As for why the 8800GTS doesn't work, it could be because the Biostar motherboard has a PCIe 1.0 slot, which has known forward compatibility bugs with later PCIe generations. This bug was sometimes patched with BIOS updates, but not every manufacturer offered such patches and many motherboards remain limited to PCIe 1.0 cards. It could also be that the card is dead, the Nvidia 8000 and 9000 series had known issues with bad ROHS solder causing the video card to stop working due to mechanical failure of the BGA joints under the GPU. If the card didn't work before you tried it in this motherboard, it could be the case.

    You can try another video card in the system, or try to update the BIOS if an update is available to see if your problem resolves itself. But, I'd not recommend such a beefy card for such a system, because it will be wasted. The Via C7 is far too slow to utilize a fast GPU like the 8800GTS.

  3. #3
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    I can attest that the C7 is a dog. Made the mistake of getting one of these HP-2133 Mini-Notes back in the day; it's a physically beautiful piece of hardware, but I think it may perform worse than a Pentium III laptop at a *slower* clock speed. That machine had essentially the same chipset (possibly *exactly* the same, it's the same video at least) as your motherboard. It's far worse than the roughly contemporary Atom CPUs, those were at least comfortably in the middling-Pentium 4-ballpark performance-wise.

    Really the only thing that board is good for is simple "set-top box" or thin-client applications. Older C3-based machines kind of have a niche as retro DOS/Win9x gaming machines because they used an older Via chipset that had pretty good legacy support (I have a 500mhz C3 that for laughs I set up as if it were a really fast 486, pure DOS only, and it runs 1990's DOS games decently well) but the C7 isn't quite so good at that.
    Last edited by Eudimorphodon; October 20th, 2020 at 04:36 PM.
    My Retro-computing YouTube Channel (updates... eventually?): Paleozoic PCs

  4. #4

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    Thanks for the honest assessment! I got several pieces for free, so I decided to try to make them work. It sounds like the poor performance isn't going to be improved by anything I try. Maybe I'll try to extract the precious metals instead!

  5. #5
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    Not something I'd recommend. Metal extraction from crushed electronic waste requires hazardous acids like aqua regia, which is not something you should be handling at home without a proper lab setup and safety equipment. The amount of gold and other precious metals in electronics from the late 90s and onwards is so small that you'll easily spend a hundred times more on equipment and consumable chemicals than you'll ever get back.

    The resulting toxic slurry isn't something you can pour down the drain or throw in the trash, it requires hazardous waste disposal, which is also very expensive.

    Gold is only sometimes present inside IC packages and sometimes microns thick coating on pins. You'd need literally hundreds of pounds of crushed electronics waste to even start getting enough gold to see.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by NavyGeo View Post
    Maybe I'll try to extract the precious metals instead!
    For the aforementioned reasons I'll assume this was a joke.

    Just to be clear, I didn't mean to encourage you to trash the machine, there certainly are tasks out there it's capable of, and if nothing else C7 boards like that might be interesting someday as relics of a of dead-end branch of x86 evolution. Just saying that being a Windows box running a modern web browser probably isn't the most apropos use for it. Think more along the lines of what you might use a Raspberry Pi for...
    My Retro-computing YouTube Channel (updates... eventually?): Paleozoic PCs

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